Analysis of connectivity: neural systems in the cerebral cortex

Rev Neurosci. Jul-Sep 1994;5(3):227-50. doi: 10.1515/revneuro.1994.5.3.227.


The mammalian cerebral cortex is composed of many distinct areas, which are very richly interconnected. The very large number of connections between cortical areas require analysis to be undertaken before reliable conclusions about the organization of neural systems in the cortex can be drawn. We review the methodology and results of two means of analysing central nervous connectivity, hierarchical analysis and optimization analysis. We conclude that these methods are reliable methods for analysing neural connectivity data, and that their results concur. The analyses indicate that all major cortical sensory systems are organized hierarchically, some central sensory systems are divided structurally into several "streams" of processing, the cortical motor system is embedded in the cortical somatosensory system, the frontal and limbic structures are connectionally associated, and that these frontal and limbic areas are invariably associated with the least peripheral sensory processing regions, and are therefore connectionally central. Finally, we discuss the differences on this common plan between the organizations of the cat and primate that these analyses reveal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*